Paul Keene: “Among the Jimson Weeds” (Running Nowhere Series – Book 1)
Paul Keene talks about the novel writing process and Conor Kelman – his protagonist in “Among the Jimson Weeds“.
Question 1 – What inspired you to write this book?
Answer: During my teaching career, I worked with students who were gifted in many areas but had difficulty fitting in. The students learned differently and rebelled at traditional teaching methods which created trouble for them at home and school. Their stories needed to be told.
Question 2 – Do you have firsthand experience with the book’s setting?
Answer: The book’s setting gave it authenticity, making it stronger. I wanted Conor to know the surroundings, therefore, I placed him in the farming community and small rural school familiar to me. It was fun experiencing the setting where I was born and raised through the eyes of Conor.
Question 3 – Who was your favorite character to write? Is this character based upon a real person?
Answer: Conor Kelman won my heart. But he was a handful to manage. I must admit, he kept me up many nights, insisting on taking me down paths of the story that weren’t planned.
Question 4 – Describe your writing process.
Answer: I write character-driven fiction and I start with identifying the main character. Regardless of the character’s flaws and weaknesses, an underlying strength must be present. I’m compelled to know everything about the protagonist–within and without, emotional and physical–the full-monty. The plot is important, by all means. I begin with Point A (problem) that leads to the final Point (outcome), inserting key markers that keep the story moving. This is similar to marking the route of a planned trip on a road map. I allow plenty of side trips that take me off the highway, but I always get back. As I write, I fine-tune the outline. *I use Scrivener, and it works great for my method of writing. 1. I write the first draft with speed and a rule to not look back. 2. Save a copy of the first draft, and get out the scissors. 3. Rewrite (Save copy) 4. (Let it rest) 5. Read from beginning to end, noting cuts and changes (Save copy). 6. Edit/Revise (Save) 7. (Let it rest) 8. Read aloud, note edits /revisions 9.Edit 10. Beta readers 11. Final edit/ Let it rest/ Publish
Question 5 – Which aspect of the book did you find most difficult to write? How did you overcome it?
Answer: I’m afraid I have some of Conor’s obsessive-compulsiveness. Allowing the book to rest is difficult for me. I want to keep working it, over and over again. The problem with doing this is either falling in love with every written word, or the desire to dump the manuscript into the trash. Fresh eyes are needed. The answer for me is to put it to bed and keep writing. I go to the next book in the hopper. Research, character study, plot mapping…I choose one and get to work.
Question 6 – How did you go about researching and organizing your book?
Answer: List making works for me. I do this with paper and pencil, jotting down topics in need of research. I organize my books into a 3-act play. I list scenes under the appropriate act. Ordering the scenes can follow. Keep in mind that nothing is permanent and that scenes can be moved around at the click of a key.
Question 7 – What made you want to become an author?
Answer: Many writers say they were born to write. I believe this is true of writers, lawyers, doctors, racecar drivers, teachers, ranchers, and all that do what they love. It’s just that sometimes we put our dreams on hold due to necessity or circumstance. As a child, I remember lying on the floor writing stories on grocery bags. I was fortunate to have teachers who introduced good books to me. The love of reading and writing has continued throughout my life.
Question 8 – What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Answer: Writing isn’t easy. It takes discipline and serious work. Write daily and you will find your voice. Write for yourself, not to make money, but for the story inside of you that needs telling. Read. Include genres other than the one you write. Avoid jealousy and envy, but celebrate the success of writers who make the best seller list. You could be next!